How was 2012 for toy licensing?

While some areas continued to struggle this year, there are signs of improvement. Samantha Loveday asks some key licensing execs for their views on the year gone by, the challenges and what 2013 might hold.
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“For spring/summer 2012 the retail climate continued to struggle, but it has started to pick up for autumn/winter and we’re seeing green shoots. It seems as though consumers are regaining confidence and beginning

to spend more – particularly in reaction to price promotions and TV advertising.

However, launching new properties at the moment continues to be a challenge as retailers are supporting the top six licences that can guarantee strong sales, and are reluctant to take a risk on something new.

Our main aim at the beginning of the year was to drive our brands forward at retail. We’ve achieved this with Peppa Pig by focusing on cross-category initiatives with key retailers, both online and in-store. For Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, we executed a brand enhancement initiative to drive toy sales and invested in marketing support and additional TV advertising.

I think that retailers should dedicate space for new properties and drive sales via promotions and brand enhancement initiatives. Licensors are generally very keen to get involved in this.

It’s looking much more positive this season, but the market will take time to recover. Things look brighter but I don’t think we’ll see any big changes until 2014.” Hannah Mungo, Head of UK Licensing, eOne (pictured)

“Although the trading climate remains tough, 2012 has been a strong year for Bulldog. We have grown across most areas of our business, have increased revenue and headcount, grown retail distribution across our brands and

introduced more great brands to market.
One of the key highlights for 2012 has been the return of optimism to the marketplace. It’s

certainly true for a retailer that in a difficult economy, the temptation to cut back on the number of lines is seen as a quick way to save money, but ultimately it is a false economy. Cutting back on the number of lines means you are offering the consumer less choice at precisely the time when shoppers need more persuading to part with their money.

The general outlook is still challenging at retail, but strong brands are more crucial now then ever and we are confident that our retail presence and sales will continue to grow.”
Rob Corney, Managing Director, Bulldog Licensing

“Obviously, conditions remain very challenging but we have benefitted from picking up new rights and this has translated into a strong performance throughout the year, which is always our aim. We have also seen some great growth from more

long-standing rights – for example, Mattel has achieved some great success with WWE this year and Bandai has achieved some phenomenal results on Power Rangers.

In general, the whole sector has been challenging but pre-school has been particularly tough. Retailers continue to be risk averse and are adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude. Skylanders is bucking that trend. Obviously the brand was already a super hot property, which makes it less of a risk, but this is still encouraging and it must be hoped that the Skylanders experience will benefit the industry as a whole and help to reinvigorate the retail landscape for new brands.”
Tom Roe, Category Manager for Toys & Games, CPLG

“2012 has been another massive growth year for us and we’re projecting continued growth over the next few years. We have secured good listings for the main [Sonic] toy line and we are now growing the programme across

Europe. Some retailers are playing it safe, which is understandable. Nevertheless, in order to make money, retailers need to take some risks and go for new things as well, especially if they want to keep a competitive edge. We’re seeing more and more retailers gaining confidence in video games brands due to the unparalleled level of exposure and brand immersion.

[To break them out] the best way is showing a tried and tested formula, so it can be good to reference success stories from other product categories and/or territories.
Sissel Henno, Head of Brand Licensing (Europe), Sega

“As the end of the year approaches, we find ourselves in a great position with wonderful brands, licensee partners and an increasingly close relationship with our broadcast colleagues at ITV. The retail environment remains challenging, but good brands are still winning through. It’s never been more important in our working lifetime than today to ensure we innovate and bring terrific product to market. Label slapping has hopefully been consigned to history, and thankfully, the market is opening up to brands inspired from new arenas including digital and music. Whilst there are certainly good green shoots to celebrate, there is still way too much uncertainty to feel we are through the woods yet.”

Trudi Hayward, SVP Global Head of Merchandise, ITV Studios Global Entertainment

“We have reshaped our business around an already strong and profitable, core card and gift business in which we expect continued growth over the next three years. We have also successfully launched our new toy brand – Tatty Teddy

& My Blue Nose Friends – which represents one of our biggest opportunities to take our brands to new consumers, retailers and territories.

Our licensing programme remains hugely significant for the development of our brands.

The recession has caused the consumer to be increasingly price sensitive which can be a challenge, as branded product needs to work much harder than ever before to offer true value for money.

Surprisingly, we haven’t encountered any reticence to our brand from buyers. We’ve seen tremendous success in our new toy offering, and securing as much retail space as we have in our first year gives an idea of the strength of the brand and the backing we have received.”
Paul Haines, Director Licensing & Business Development, Carte Blanche

“At the start of the year we set out to consolidate our position in the UK and expand our licensing programme internationally, leveraging the worldwide success of the Everything’s Rosie TV series. We are finishing

2012 having achieved our goals.
The Rosie brand translates extremely well

into great toy designs, and we will be progressing exciting new toy designs in 2013 and beyond. Innovation is top of the list of qualities we look for in a toy partner. The toy space is crowded, the category changes rapidly and the purchaser and end consumers are savvy – so constant innovation is key for success. Interactive toys are ever more popular and we foresee this sector growing exponentially in 2013.”
Julie Quirke, Director of Licensing,
V&S Entertainment

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